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December is a crazy time for everyone and sometimes it can feel so overwhelming being busy for weeks on end. However, it is also the ideal time for a Christmas getaway in the UK. For your perfect UK Christmas getaway with ideas from Christmas city breaks to unique lighthouse stays keep reading to find your ideal Christmas break destination.
In this post we asked top travel bloggers for their recommendations for the best destinations for Christmas breaks in the UK.
Christmas Breaks in England
Nottingham is ideal for a Christmas city break in the UK, with good transport links from the rest of the country and plenty of hotel options ranging in price from budget to luxury. It is a great Christmas getaway destination for couples or families. There are many things to do in Nottingham especially around Christmas time. Visit the largest event in the East Midlands at Nottingham’s annual winter wonderland in the Market Square most of which is free, and where you can listen to the live entertainment, take part in the outdoor ice-skating or tobogganing and go on colourful fairground rides.
For a romantic date night idea there is also an Alpine ice bar where you can enjoy a variety of drinks served in real ice glasses. Wrap up warm though because you are surrounded by specially designed ice sculptures kept at sub-zero temperatures. Prices start at £13 for adults and include fur jackets and gloves. For other romantic or fun date ideas in Nottingham on a Christmas break check out this post.
If you are looking for a European Christmas vibe, visit the Christmas market with over 70 traditional, Bavarian-style stalls selling a variety of gifts and hand-crafted goods, as well as seasonal treats. It is the ideal place to pick up some last-minute gifts. Open daily from 10am-10pm on weekdays and until 11pm on the weekend starting mid-November right up until New Year’s Eve.
Start Point Lighthouse, Devon
Recommended by Suzanne of Meandering Wild
Start Point Lighthouse is located on the south coast of Devon just a short distance from Salcombe and Dartmouth. As with any lighthouse it is wild, remote and exposed and this makes it the perfect place to have a Christmas getaway. Staying in a lighthouse is a unique experience that is enhanced by winter weather, being cosy indoors while the weather does its thing outside is a fantastic magical feeling.
Start Point Lighthouse is located on the south-West Coast Path and walking along this coastline is the perfect way to pass the days around Christmas. The lighthouse keepers’ cottages make a lovely base for exploring this coastline. Being self-catering you can have your own festive feast or eat out in Salcombe or one of the nearby small pubs.
Salcombe is a small coastal village with a lovely Christmas atmosphere and is 16 miles from Start Point, although the narrow lanes make the journey longer than you would expect. Fore Street, the main street has festive lights and there is a tree on White strand overlooking the harbour where the ferry departs for South Sands. All of the pubs and shops have a festive feel and the atmosphere is welcoming. If you enjoy gin, then a visit to the Salcombe gin distillery is essential to make your own festive gin to enjoy in front of the fire at the lighthouse.
Recommended by Nancy of Around the World at the weekend
Liverpool is the perfect destination for a Christmas break, this city is endlessly cool, filled with music, budget friendly and it’s easy to get to. Liverpool has two cathedrals, both have lots of events on at Christmas, so it’s worth trying to catch a Carol concert. The street between the Cathedrals is delightfully called Hope Street and has some good restaurants and hotels on it. A top recommendation for somewhere to stay is Hotel Indigo – a unique and exciting location with impeccably clean rooms and one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve had.
Most years Liverpool has a German style Christmas Market outside St George’s Hall which is worth a visit. Like all cities, Liverpool has a lovely Christmas vibe and a stroll down Matthew Street is a must, as is a visit to the Beatles Cavern Club. If you are lucky, you will be able to catch some live music in the Cavern, or one of the many bars dotted along the street and buskers will be singing Christmas Carols.
For Christmas shopping you must go to Liverpool One, you could easily finish your Christmas shopping in an afternoon here. Liverpool is very accessible, and most places are within walking distance, or just a short taxi ride away. For a festive Christmas drink visit Berry and Rye, a secret and very delightful Gin and Whisky bar. Bang on the door, cross your fingers, hope they have room for you and enjoy a Christmas cocktail or two!
Recommended by Polly Taylor of Lets Travel UK
Of all the destinations in the UK for a festive getaway, surely Winchester has to be top of the list. It might be a relatively small city, but its Christmas market is mighty. It has been placed in Europe’s top 15 Christmas markets, and in 2019 was voted the UK’s number one.
Winchester Christmas Market is visited by almost half a million people per year. Over 100 wooden chalets are styled like those featured at the famous German Christmas markets, and the backdrop is simply stunning – the market is held in Winchester’s historic Cathedral Close. At the centre of it all is an outdoor ice rink. There is a British Crafts Village showcasing the finest handmade goods, and there is also an appealing nativity scene here, providing unique Christmas photo opportunities.
Each stall holder has been carefully selected because they offer unusual, quirky and top-quality gifts, decorations, food or drinks for sale. There are various crafts people, including painters, glass makers, jewellers and textile artists. When it comes to refreshments, visitors can choose from a wide selection including typically British mince pies and European Glühwein (mulled wine) as well as German bratwurst and stollen (Christollen or Weihnachtsstollen).
There’s no charge to enter the Christmas Market, and it tends to be quieter from Monday to Friday. Winchester has a picturesque and compact city centre, with plenty to do once you’ve ticked everyone off your Christmas shopping list.
Recommended by Karen of Marvellous Middle England
One of the best cities in the UK to visit at Christmas has to be Birmingham in the Midlands. There’s plenty to do to suit all ages. The main event is the Frankfurt Christmas market which appears in the centre of the city in Victoria Square every November and stays until just before Christmas day.
The Frankfurt market is the largest authentic German market outside of Austria or Germany and sells artisan gifts, sweet treats and some of the best food you’ll find in the city. It’s open most days between 10am and 9pm. For kids there’s a carousel and talking Christmas Moose head whilst adults will love warming up with a sweet mug of Gluhwein or a huge glass of German beer. The market started back in 2001 with a modest 25 stalls and has grown to over 80, stretching across the whole of the centre of the city. It’s definitely one of the most popular Christmas events in the Midlands attracting large crowds of revellers in the evenings so it’s best to visit late afternoon if you want a quieter shop.
Over the festive season in Birmingham, you’ll also find a covered ice rink, festively lit big wheel and several Christmas pantos at the many world class theatres. It really is the perfect place for a UK Christmas mini break.
Recommended by Rob of Roam Yonder
Kent loves Christmas time and is wonderful for a UK Christmas break. The county has lots of events over the festive period, but one town sets the bar above all others. Rochester is the place to visit in Kent if you love Christmas.
Rochester has a long history with Charles Dickins and that plays into a lot of the events the town has on at Christmas. The highlight is the Dickensian Christmas Festival which takes place across a weekend in December. During the festival, you will uncover a feast of Victorian delights, costumed characters, parades and join in with open-air carol concerts.
A Rochester Christmas getaway isn’t all about Charles Dickens though. There are plenty of other events to get into the festive spirit. The Christmas Market is located in the grounds of Rochester Castle, providing a beautiful backdrop for the popular market.
You can’t have a British Christmas without Panto and Rochester delivers every year. You can usually spot at least a few famous faces from the TV as well as a couple you may well have forgotten.
For many, the Christmas period is highlighted by the Mistletoe Ball. Come dressed in your finest Dickensian attire and join in an amazing evening of Victorian dinner and dance. Whatever your fancy at Christmas time, Rochester does a great job in meeting it in style. From Christmas markets to traditional panto there is something for the whole family to enjoy.
Beverley & Hull
Recommended by Nicole of Wellbeing Wherever
Beverly, Yorkshire is one of my favourite places in the world. It is a little British oasis and my home away from home when I am in England. I love hearing the hourly chimes from the Beverley Minster Bell Towers. No matter when you visit, it has a lot to offer, but Christmas makes it even more special and worthwhile to visit.
Beverly is home to one of the largest Christmas Markets in the UK with traditional Victoria markets taking place in December with 3 different market areas – Saturday Market, Wednesday Market and North Bar Within. There are over 120 stalls where you can find food, drinks, stocking stuffers and gifts. You can also find live carolling, pantomime performances, and of course Santa and his reindeer. The local shopping centre, Flemmingate Centre, also has a variety of Christmas activities. More Christmas Markets can be found in Hull namely at Trinity Market. Many of the hotels in Hull also host parties for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
My favourite restaurant in Beverley is Lucia Wine Bar & Grill. It has delicious food with friendly staff and a great overall vibe. I always stay at the Trinity Guest House. The owners are lovely and very helpful with offering money-saving tips and things to see and do around the area. The breakfast here is extensive and offers a lot of selection. It’s located across the street from the Train station making is convenient for travellers and easy to head into Hull for a day trip – the trip by train takes about 15 minutes. York is about an hour and a half by bus from Beverley. London is roughly 5 hours by train.
For more UK inspiration you may also like these posts:
- Top Nottingham Attractions
- 19 Romantic and Unusual Date ideas in Nottingham
- Camping in Devon: The Ultimate Budget Staycation
Recommended by Roshni of The Wanderlust Within
One of the best destinations to visit during Christmas is the first National Park in the UK, the Peak District.
Situated across the Northern counties of Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, it is easily accessible from anywhere in the UK.
Throughout the year the Peak District is popular amongst hikers, cyclists and rock climbers, and whilst these activities are still possible during Christmas it is great to explore the seasonal activities too.
There are traditional Christmas markets in Chatsworth, Chesterfield, Bakewell and Buxton. As well as themed Christmas markets, including the medieval artisan market at Haddon Hall, the Victorian Christmas Market in Matlock and the one day Christmas Food Festival in Belper.
On top of the Christmas markets there are also several festive events that shouldn’t be missed, including Christmas carols by candlelight at Treak Cliff Cavern, the Santa canal boat rides in Chesterfield, and the Santa train rides on the Peak Rail from Matlock to Rowsley.
During Christmas one of the best places to stay is the YHA Castleton Losehill Hall, a recently renovated gothic mansion with a cosy drawing room. The original features of the mansion make it a beautiful setting for enjoying a mug of hot chocolate beside the fireplace.
Recommended by Pauline of Beeloved City
If you love Christmas markets, Manchester will be the perfect destination for your UK Christmas break!
Located in North West England, Manchester features not only one but 9 awesome Christmas markets! They are spread out around the city centre and you can easily walk from one to another. You can find them on: Albert Square, Cathedral Gardens, Market Street, Exchange Square, Corn Exchange, Exchange Street, Brazennose Street, New Cathedral Street, King Street and St. Ann’s Square.
The biggest one is located on Albert square. It features Manchester Big Santa and a huge german bar. It’s the perfect place to go grab a bite to eat and a drink! You will find many food stands with typical Christmas food and local specialities. All of that, topped by with a delicious mulled wine!
If you’d like to go ice-skating, make sure to head to the Christmas market in Cathedral gardens. It’s also a great place to wander around and discover some of Manchester’s most famous landmarks such as the Cathedral, the Printworks and Northern Quarter. If you love Christmas lights, Piccadilly Gardens will be your paradise. You can also head to St Peter square. The royal library always looks stunning in winter with the lights.
Manchester is also a great place to do your Christmas shopping! There are many shops all around the city centre but the best place to go is the Trafford Centre. This amazing shopping centre is like a theme park! It’s been decorated to the extreme and you will find all the shops you may need.
Recommended by Rachel of London and Leap
The traditional fishing village of Hastings Old Town – just an hour and a half from London by train – is the perfect choice for a unique Christmas getaway. On the Sussex coast and in the heart of 1066 country, Hastings is not only the location of the first Norman castle in England, but also a handy jumping off point for exploring nearby Battle, Rye, Winchelsea and Bexhill-on-Sea.
Hastings in the off-season has a quiet, relaxed feel to it, and you won’t need to vie with summer visitors or daytrippers for space on the seafront or promenade. The evenings may draw in early, but the East and West Hills twinkle with the lights of the Old Town, and the many pubs are cosy and inviting. If you’ve left your Christmas shopping a bit late, the quaint, independent shops of George Street are the perfect place to pick up a last-minute gift.
Treat yourself to a tasty sausage roll from Judges bakery, enjoy the open fireplace and own-brewed beer of the First In, Last Out pub. Take the funicular up for a brisk walk in Hastings County Park, or if you’re feeling really brave, join the hardy locals who swim daily year-round on the beach at St Leonard’s. If you’re after a bit of high culture, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Hastings Contemporary and a meal in the acclaimed attached restaurant, Boatyard. With a miniature railway, Blue Reef Aquarium, and Smugglers Adventure caves to explore, Hastings has something to offer the whole family.
Recommended by Ella of Many More Maps
In the county of North Yorkshire you’ll find the delightful city of York. Looking like it’s straight from a storybook, York is especially beautiful and atmospheric at Christmas, and one of the many great days out in Yorkshire.
Start your festive visit to York with a stroll through the Shambles, the oldest part of the city and reportedly JK Rowling’s inspiration behind Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Here, you’ll find lots of independent shops selling books, sweets, Harry Potter merchandise and piping hot coffee and steaming hot chocolate to warm you up.
Next, head straight to the York Christmas Markets, which you’ll find on Parliament Street, St Sampson Square and Coppergate. Fill up a mug of mulled wine and peruse the countless Christmassy stalls selling Christmas Tree decorations, festive trinkets and, a Christmas Market tradition, huge hot dogs! There’s almost always a group singing Christmas carols in the market, which adds even more excitement!
York is really into its Viking history, and especially at Christmas, when Thor’s Tipi is erected on Parliament Street. This cosy bar is filled with furs, wooden benches, and even a fire pit to warm up over! Always a huge hit with tourists and locals alike, Thor’s serve up Christmas-inspired cocktails alongside local ales and stouts. To soak up some Scaninavian style Christmas hygge, Thor’s is the place to go.
Recommended by Claire of Tales of a Backpacker
London is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year, but a Christmas visit to London is extra special. Visiting London in winter means you have a better chance of enjoying the sights without the usual crowds, as long as you come prepared for the cold wet weather.
You can get all of your Christmas shopping here, whether you prefer the high end designer shops on Regent Street and Oxford Street, the boutiques in Carnaby Street and Camden or Christmas markets – you will find it all in London.
London Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is sadly cancelled in 2020, but you should still find plenty of festive cheer around the city, in Christmas markets at the South Bank Centre Winter Market or Christmas By The River at London Bridge City.
The city comes alive after dark (which happens after about 4 pm) with colourful lights and decorations filling the streets. Huge Christmas trees appear around the city, and ice-skating rinks pop up outside the Natural History Museum and Somerset House.
Simply walking around the city you can get into the Christmas spirit, and warm up in a traditional English pub with a mulled wine or cider. And if the weather gets too much, there are plenty of free museums in London to explore while keeping warm and dry!
Recommended by Joanne of The World in my Pocket
Bath is ideal for a Christmas getaway as it has one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the United Kingdom. Set in an idyllic location, spread along different roads on the historic centre of the city. There are over 150 different stalls inside beautiful wooden houses, which sell everything related to the winter holidays, from beautiful decorations to handmade gifts, from unique jewellery pieces to artisan products, the market is the perfect place to find a little something special for Christmas.
When it comes to food, the market in Bath does not disappoint. There are plenty of stalls where you can enjoy a mug of mulled wine or hot spiced cider, hearty pies, delicious chocolates, grilled bratwurst topped with crispy onions and mustard, hot roast baps, sugary donuts, Nutella crepes and many more. The market is a foodie’s paradise.
One of the exciting things to do in the Bath Christmas Market is go on the Victorian merry-go-round, which attracts both children and adults. It’s a fun little journey on a carousel that adds to that magical Christmas feeling this market brings to its visitors. Some of the other attractions around the Christmas market in Bath are the ice rink and the glow in the dark mini golf course.
Bath would make a perfect UK Christmas break, but visiting the Christmas market can be easily done in a day trip to Bath from London too, with over 60 daily trains connecting the two.
Recommended by Emily of Dorset Travel Guide
Most people think of Bournemouth as a summer holiday destination, thanks to its stunning white sand beaches and fun seaside vibes. But this charming Dorset town on the south coast of England is also a real winter wonderland, especially at Christmas time.
Each Christmas, Bournemouth is transformed into an eye-catching spectacle with an enormous Christmas Tree Wonderland. The town centre is filled with over 100 sparkling Christmas trees of all shapes, sizes, and colours.
Unfortunately, the Christmas Tree Wonderland has been put on hold for 2020 and has been replaced by a “covid-conscious” event. However, many of the most popular attractions are returning, including the enchanting illuminations which make the town centre feel magical. There’s also a huge outdoor ice rink in the picturesque Lower Gardens, a fun Alpine Market, and the lively Alpine Lodge Bar, all of which will be returning for 2020.
On top of all that festive fun, there are so many amazing things to do in Bournemouth and the surrounding area to make your winter getaway complete. Brave the elements with a coastal hike around the Isle of Purbeck or along the famous Jurassic Coast, both nearby. Visit the striking hilltop ruins of Corfe Castle, explore the county’s culture at a local museum or stately home, or simply curl up by the fire in a nice country pub.
And if you can face it, the Macmillan White Christmas Dip sees hundreds of people jump into the sea in fancy dress on Christmas Day to raise money for charity!
Christmas Breaks in Scotland
Recommended by Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Scotland is home to breath taking castles and some of the friendliest places in the world, making it an ideal destination for a Christmas getaway. Glasgow, the edgy and humble city is guaranteed to give you a pleasant holiday experience. Typically, the city hosts a number of festivities, but check the Glasgow Loves Christmas website for up-to-date information and covid-19 information. These festivities include a Santa Dash and a variety of performances.
The decorations of the city will immediately put you in the holiday spirit – with twinkling lights and ornaments elegantly decorating the city. The city is home to a few Christmas markets – the Glasgow Christmas Market and the George Square market. Shop your way around – indulging in the local street food and warm winter beverages. Try some Yorkshire pudding wraps filled with haggis or pop into a restaurant for a full Christmas dinner.
Elfingrove is one of the most popular attractions running from early December through early January. Enjoy a night-time tour of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where the magic of Christmas really comes alive. Wrap up your night with dancing in a giant snow globe!
Glasgow is an amazing destination in Scotland to visit for a UK Christmas getaway!
Recommended by Chrysoula of Travel Passionate
While winter in Edinburgh can be pretty chilly, it is a lovely time to explore the city as it’s filled with Christmas cheer and festive decorations, perfect for a UK Christmas break. This Scottish city becomes even more of a fairy-tale than normal over the Christmas season as the streets are lined with magnificent markets and the smell of fresh-baked goods and mulled wine wafts through the air.
Within the winter wonderland, visitors can enjoy a charming carousel in East Princes Street Gardens, an Elves’ Workshop concealed in the depths of the Christmas Tree Maze, an ice rink in St Andrew Square, Santa Land in Princes Street Gardens, and Christmas Markets sprawling through the city streets.
All of the city’s shop windows are also adorned with festive displays, Christmas trees, and twinkly lights, and the fun-filled pantos and cosy pubs are the perfect places to spend an evening. Alternatively, you could head to the Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar for a real taste of wintry whiskey with quaint log-cabin vibes.
If you have the chance to stay on in Edinburgh after Christmas too, you’ll be in for a treat as the city’s New Year celebrations, aka Hogmanay, are some of the best in the world!
Isle of Skye
Recommended by Rachel of Average Lives
There’s never a bad time to visit Skye and never bad weather – only unsuitable clothing. Undeniably, the island off the west coast of Scotland, is magical all year round, but if you visit for a UK Christmas break, you’ll be there without the summer crowds. This means Skye will become your own remote rural paradise and it will be much easier to get around the single-lane roads.
A good base for your Christmas getaway is Portree, the capital of Skye. Portree is perfect for seeing the main sights and hidden gems of the island, whilst being able to ‘pop’ back for a wee cup of tea. As the largest town on Skye, you will have access to restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and supermarkets. Therefore, although you’ll be rural, you will have everything you need to make your Christmas break unforgettable.
If you love being outdoors and want to spend some time in nature there’s no better place. Don’t miss the popular hikes of the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing, they are both unique and offer unbelievable views of impressive rock formations. You can also take a Christmas walk on the beautiful coral beach, it may be cold, but the water will still be crystal clear. To reward your hiking efforts, go to the Talisker distillery to experience a whisky tasting tour. They are still open around Christmas time for tours, but please note they close on the 24th and 25th December.
Ultimately, there’s no better place to be reminded of the magic of Christmas than on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands.
Christmas Breaks in Northern Ireland
Recommended by Allan of It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
Belfast has always been overlooked due to its somewhat sketchy reputation in the past, but in recent years it has come on leaps and bounds to emerge as one of the most exciting and culturally diverse cities in the UK. On top of this it is cheap, as the 3rd cheapest city in Britain for a night out it is perfect for a Christmas break. Combine the city’s famous pubs and bars, and world-renowned craic (banter) of the city, there are few destinations that can compare for a unique and exciting getaway over the Christmas period. Visit the Belfast Christmas Market which sits central to the city’s festive celebrations beneath the historic buildings and among the monuments of the grounds of Belfast City Hall.
Everything is within easy walking distance whether it’s a walk through the Titanic Quarter and the free shipyard museum showcasing the origins of the Titanic Quarter, or a night out on the cobbled streets of the lively Cathedral Quarter. It’s no more than a mile between them and there is something for everyone. For a Christmas break in Belfast I would recommend staying in the main transit hub at Great Victoria Street, the Europa Hotel is a good start, and a great first night out would include a hog roast, mulled wine, and local craic in the heated beer tents of the Christmas Market.
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Have you been on a Christmas Break in the UK? Let us know where in the comments!
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